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I sat outside on the hammock tonight, ignoring the incessant clatter of my to-do list. Since launching our new company (have you seen our Visual Creatives website yet? We’re really pleased with it!) these moments have been few and far between. Travel, connecting, doing, creating: these are the new words of my days.

But not tonight.

Tonight I sat and watched the one lone doggy left living in the house. I watched the branches of my favorite tree and realized they were a stage play of birds and squirrels locked in never-ending battle. I listened to the peacocks, haunting, but so familiar. I listened to the people sounds that intruded once in awhile. I sat and I remembered.

I remembered all the nights just like this one. Nights filled with swimming and fence gates swinging, back doors slamming.

It’s just all been so very good.

 

 

If we could only hear God!

“And these are but the outer fringe of his works;

how faint the whisper we hear of him/

Who then can understand

the thunder of his power?

— Job 26:14

I’ve seen God do some amazing things in the past few weeks. Perhaps my favorite is God’s total transformation of our friend Bob. Bob was addicted to pain pills and alcohol for 15 years at least — the growing-up years of his two precious daughters. The girls gave up on the idea of ever having their own earthly father in the way they needed and deserved. And God, the father of the fatherless, stepped in to help fill that need.

But there were holes left behind. Only Bob could fulfill his God-given purpose.

A few weeks ago Bob hit the bottom, and ended up in places he never imagined. They were not pretty places, but they were where he needed to be.

God sent John to Bob. John wasn’t afraid of those places. In fact, he revels in meeting the broken-hearted, like Bob. And through John, Bob saw God. We nearly keeled over in shock recently when we encountered Bob hanging around the lobby after church, clear-eyed and delighting in life out in the world again.

“What are you doing here, Bob?”

“Oh, John and I have a connection. He came when I was pretty low. What a great day! I haven’t been able to think this clearly for 15 years!”

I watched Bob’s daughter get  a hug from her daddy and I wanted to weep. It was so good! And it’s just a whisper of what God is doing all around us. Just a whisper! If only we could hear the thunder!

I know that Bob has quite a journey ahead of him, and he may slide back a few times before he gets it straight. But I also know that God is after his heart, and won’t stop until he has it. I can trust God.

As we were leaving, Bob casually mentioned that he’d signed up to be baptized. It was a perfectly normal, logical decision for Bob. For the rest of us it was a miracle.

It’s so good to belong!

Yes, here we are...all of us!

Indulge me in just a little rambling about our family for a moment. Last week we returned from our family reunion in Park City, Utah. I had never been to Utah, but after this trip I know two things: it’s beautiful and it is cold! All 20 of us from five states gathered together for a few days of skiing, spa and family dinners. My mom spent her days with babies, which filled her love tank with lots of slurpy kisses and hugs. My favorite part of the day was the end, after all the skiing was done, the food was eaten and the dishes put away. Then we sat around in a big family circle and either played games, video games or just sat and caught up. We laughed a lot. And over the course of the trip it was so special to see how much we all appreciated each other.

Friday night, four days after we’d arrived, my Mom looked around the room and said, “This is so nice. It’s just…all of us. Here.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mom.

The view out one of our condo windows. So pretty!

Loving life!

Riley Perry...sweetie in pink!

The lovely Irvine girls!

The reward at the end of the day

I sat in a rocking chair today and rocked the sweetest girl, little Miss Riley Perry. She squirmed and fussed and then settled into the crook of my arm to sleep and dream. And dream she does. You can see it scampering across her little face.

While I sat rocking Riley I enjoyed the chatter of the girls in room, my daughter and two of her closest friends, along with Melissa, who makes every room brighter just by being in it. The rolls I’d just made for Melissa were smelling just yummy, while the batch I’d made for ourselves was smelling yeasty and full of future promise. I was happy.

Moments later Jessica Irvine popped through the front door. Now Jessica was our first “Melissa,” babysitting and nannying the girls during a very stressful phase of our life here in Palm Beach Gardens. During the days when my dad was suffering with cancer Jessica and her husband Doug and their first little girl Ellie nearly moved into our house, taking up my role in teaching the girls and keeping Kylie and Jillian stable and happy. Today Jessica had a considerably grown-up Ellie and little sister Esther in tow, while littlest sister Scarlett was taking a cat nap. Oh how nice to have a house filled with girls from Riley to Melissa.

That’s it. No deep spiritual application, or even a shallow one. Just wanted to share a snapshot of a happy, cool fall day in South Florida where the dinner rolls are rising and all is — for the moment — calm.

Kisses from God

My brothers Jeff (left) and Garth (right)

I’ve spent some time today thinking about my brothers. I had two of them, 6 and 8 years older than I. They tortured me and I loved it. I tattled on them and they didn’t love it. They were great brothers. Both of them are gone now, and have been gone for many years. But somehow it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been gone, I miss them.

You see, last year my older brother Jeff would have been welcoming his first grandbaby, the beautiful Lucy Belle, into his family. And any day now my other brother Garth would be welcoming Laila into the family. Both of these baby girls are surrounded by family who adore them. But I can’t help but wonder if God let Jeff and Garth give Lucy and Laila a little kiss before he sends them down to us. Is that too big an assignment for the God of time and space? I don’t think so!

So I’m going to assume that little Lucy and soon-to-arrive Laila have had a little snuggle session with their Grampas. What a beautiful thought!

And then I’m going to snicker a bit that my brothers would be grandfathers. Wow. I mean, I’m still their little sister, after all.

Do I dare to be Dangerous?

Rocky_Balboa_6

I love to tell stories. No big secret there. But I have discovered lately that the best and the worst ministry stories can rarely be shared. There is always a person who would be embarrassed or a desire to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand is doing. Good things, those, but they prevent us from sharing the power of the gospel at times.

I’ve been in a ministry phase like that. One that is kind of quiet on the public front, but overwhelmingly radical on the private front. I SO wish I could share what’s been going on in the lives of people around me, because I’m pretty sure that someday there’s going to be a great story out of it all. In the meantime, I’ll share a quote I heard today from Rocky IV. Yes, you read that right. Mark Batterson shared it in his message on prayer — desperate prayer — and the power of continuing to besiege heaven. Said Rocky, “It ain’t who can land the strongest punch. It’s who can take the strongest punch and keep standing.”

Yes, that sums up life in my home right now.

But because sometimes personal details of lives are interesting and help us understand each other, I thought I’d spend a couple of minutes just listing what we’re up to these days.

  • David and I are packing up all my mom’s goods in her house around the corner from us, loading it on a truck tomorrow (OK, we have movers — true confessions!), and moving her into her new retirement village in North Florida. We are full of faith that she’s going to live a richer life surrounded by some family and lots of friends who worship and play the way she does. We’re also full of emotion at a chapter in her life and ours that is apparently over, and a little trepidation when we think about the future. We will be with Mom in her new home from Wednesday to Monday of next week.
  • We are thinking about  a father’s love a lot in our household, as well. Lately nearly all the girls who move in and out of our home are dealing with hurts and difficulties in this area. One girl has a loving father but can’t accept it or feel it. Two girls have fathers who abandoned them. A third has a father whom she wishes would abandon her because of his lifestyle and lack of earthly love. They all have a Father who cares more for them than they can imagine, and it’s an awesome privilege to be a small part in reminding them of that.
  • I am looking forward to the Christmas season, and working through the Advent Conspiracy as we plan ahead. Being gut-level honest, it is difficult to change a family culture to accept the responsibility we have to think differently, think past the mall. I want to be faithful to Kylie and Jillian’s progress in that area, and not require them to tag along with David and me. And yet, they too have a calling on their lives. We are currently gathering the resources to organizations we want to support, and are looking forward to having the girls choose where their generosity will lead them.
  • Speaking of generosity, we are also working with some amazing people at Christ Fellowship to study generosity in all its forms, from the life we live to the money we give. This committee is changing the way I look at my world and my future, and I’m a little afraid of it!
  • Finally, I’m doing some amazing reading these days. Three books for you to consider: Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren, The Poor Will Be Glad by Phil Smith and Peter Greer, and the Advent Conspiracy. Put those three together and you will NEVER be the same. I promise you that.

Life happens over coffee

My brother-in-law Clint shares a French Press with us!

My brother-in-law Clint shares a French Press with us!

One of my Twitter friends, @givelovecoffee,  commented about the great Third Space at Willow Creek Church this morning. Her less-than-140 character assesment was “Life happens over coffee.”

I couldn’t agree more!

I am just finishing the longest blogging break I’ve had since I started Coffee Shop Journal. David and I are in Portland, Oregon, for the wedding of my first cousin’s daughter. I hate that description, because it doesn’t truly represent the role these people play in our lives. My cousin, Brian, is as close to me as a brother, especially now that my own brothers are gone. His daughter, Brittney, lived with us one very fun summer, and we’ve all been bonded ever since. In fact, all of Brian’s kids are like our own nieces and nephews, and the opportunity to spend this week celebrating marriage was amazing. We put digital life on hold to celebrate family life over coffee.

And my Twitter friend really did capture something real. Looking around at the reception, meeting at Starbucks here and there, hanging in Brian’s living room, socializing on the back deck of another cousin’s country home after making home made doughnuts (oh yeah!): real connections are made with a cup of coffee or tea in hand and time to spend with our feet up relaxing. They can happen in small bites or large extended amounts of time, but they are rarely made during a program, service, or artificial environment. They are made living life.

Can’t think of a better way to capture the essence of Coffee Shop Journal.

Life happens over coffee.

Dreaming of Princess crowns, sparkling slippers, Prince Charming

princess

It was hard to find a parking spot in my own driveway today. There were Princess mobiles everywhere. And the driveway was truly just the beginning. Inside the house were squealing, giggly girls of all ages from 16 to 27, fluttering and gilding themselves. There was one lone Prince, waiting for all the furor to pass.

Jillian is Princess of the day, throwing a lovely “Bippity Boppity Boo Ball” for her 16th birthday (which is officially tomorrow). I’m walking around aware that this day only foreshadows another, that this cast of characters is going to reassemble in some number of years. And again, there will be a Prince, waiting.

Days like this are milestones. I realize that on that other, future day she is going to be looking happily back on this present day. The things we did today (Daddy did my nails!) will be the things she wants done then. Even the words we speak today will be written on her heart in indelible ink. Glittery ink. It makes me conscious of the words I say in a different way, a way that should probably be how I view all my words. Today they are filtered through pixie dust, which takes away all hint of frustration or gloom.

I’m off, now, to enjoy THIS day.

A dream is a wish your heart makes…

Life in the middle of the Sandwich

lucybelle

Once more David and I are in an intense travel season. We were in Boston for Mother’s day, and now are in Atlanta to greet the newest member of our family, Lucy Belle Nichols. Next we are heading to the retirement village to show my Mom her new home. And did I mention that we packed up my oldest daughter from college, where she just completed her freshman year? I think I could be the poster child for “The Sandwich Generation.” 

Andy Stanley’s book “The Principle of the Path” has really challenged me to be intentional with my attention. Simple principle but so profound: you get your direction from your attention. This week it’s all about family.

My daughter’s heart

Today I’m welcoming my favorite guest blogger ever to Coffee Shop Journal! You get a chance to meet my daughter, Kylie, and read some of the words she’s written that have moved me to laughter and tears…all in one paragraph.

Usually I keep most of our “personal” life off this blog, choosing to share those things on Facebook or my other blog (rarely!). But last night I read a note that my oldest daughter wrote in response to a Facebook meme, or tagging carnival. The assignment was simply “Write 25 things about yourself that we might not know.” Kylie could have said, “I used to dip my frenchfries in my ice cream cone.” and let it go at that. But she didn’t. She wrote what you see below. I’m posting it today because I think it is a delightful glimpse into the heart of a girl who is sold out for God, and balanced precariously on the ledge between childhood and adulthood. So with her permission this morning, I’m turning my blog over to my guest blogger, Kylie Saunders!

25 Things About Me

1. I love Disney Princesses! Sleeping beauty is my favorite!
2. I tend to make peoples lives difficult only because they mean the most to me in the entire world. I’m sorry, you know who you are.
3. Only some things in life are magical to me.
4. I am adopted and I proclaim it proudly. Someday, when I’m married, I plan on adopting kids because I have a heart for the lost and unloved.
5. I want to be a part of an earth shattering event but not to say that I was a part of it but to see peoples lives transformed and witness the glory of God.
6. Until now, I haven’t been enrolled in a school since the 3rd grade.
7. My favorite colors are turquoise and the color of the ocean.
8. Music is one of the things that moves me the most and helps me cope.
9. I often say that I miss the beach, but I really don’t like the beach, I miss the ocean.
10. Me and my sister are complete opposites and I love her just the same.
11. I love children, always have and always will.
12. Disney world is my happy place and you can bet that I will be the mother that will be dragging her kids on all the rides.
13. I love to sneeze, it gives me a very temporary rush that I love.
14. I think I have a sleeping disease, I can’t get enough of it.
15. I have never had a “boyfriend” and I really believe God has shielded me from a lot and I can’t wait until Mr. Right comes along.
16. Being this stylish is a burden.
17. I have always adored sailboats for some unknown reason and if I could take sailing lessons and own a sailboat, I would be completely ecstatic.
18. I randomly take off running when I am completely happy and I even have a happy bounce when I taste delicious flavor.
19. I love my roomie and my suitemates! they are the best :D
20. Four years ago today my grandfather died of cancer and I miss him more than you know.
21. I will never fully grow up, and here I am at college.
22. If you think you know something about me, and then tell me, I will probably tell you you are wrong.
23. People are fascinating to me and I often try to figure them out when I first meet them.
24. My parents amaze me and I want to be just like them when I grow up.
25. I love my hair and I am sure none can compete with it.

Thanks, Kylie! And for all you bloggy readers out there, statement 25 is so true. She has great hair!